Vashon Center for the Arts has announced a major staffing shake-up, eliminating one leadership role at the organization while creating another.
The new position — associate executive director — is being filled by Allison Halstead Reid, an islander well known in Vashon’s nonprofit community, who stepped into her new role on Wednesday, April 17. Halstead Reid, a development, marketing and event-planning professional, has been a member of the board of directors of VCA since spring 2018. She resigned from the board two days prior to joining the organization’s staff.
In the transition, Angela Gist, VCA’s deputy director for many years and more recently the organization’s artistic director, was told that her job was eliminated one day before Halstead Reid arrived. Gist declined to give any immediate comment when reached by The Beachcomber last week.
Kevin Hoffberg, VCA’s executive director, announced the change last Friday in “The Fish Wrap,” his weekly blog. His post touted Halstead Reid’s skillset, saying she has a deep background in performing arts, education, marketing and fundraising.
Halstead Reid, Hoffberg wrote, will manage VCA’s visual arts, performing arts, arts education, dance and Vashon Artists in the Schools programs, as well as oversee its marketing efforts. Hoffberg wrote that he will continue to be in charge of finance, operations, facilities and development for the arts center.
Hoffberg closed the blog post by stating that the position of the artistic director had been eliminated. He did not mention Gist’s name.
Gist has been with VCA for a decade. She became the organization’s artistic director in March 2018, after nine years as VCA’s deputy director during which she played a leadership role in the long and sometimes contentious campaign to build the new 20,000-square-foot arts center. Highlights of her year-long tenure as the artistic director include her curation of an art exhibit and workshop series exploring the #MeToo movement and the creation of a literary conference that was recently presented at the arts center and other locations around town.
In an interview with The Beachcomber, Hoffberg declined to comment on Gist’s departure. Instead, he focused on Halstead Reid, saying he had created her job after months of consideration and with the full support of the VCA board. Halstead Reid will report to him directly, filling a much-needed role in helping him run the organization, he said.
“She’s a wonderful person who people are drawn to,” Hoffberg said. “She has this attractive and powerful niche of skills and a long history in the arts and on Vashon.”
Until last week, Halstead Reid worked as director of advancement for the Harbor School, a job that included marketing, communications, donor stewardship and the production of special events for the private school.
She first moved to Vashon in 2000, but left to live in Portland in 2004. In 2009, she returned to the island and has lived here ever since.
She has also worked for FortunaLux, a Vashon firm she founded that handles auction and event production, marketing, branding and design for organizations, including Vashon Island Pet Protectors, UMO Ensemble, Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust and Vashon Island Rowing Club’s Passport to Pain bicycle ride.
Previously, she founded and worked as the executive director of AHA Theatre, a company that was part of the fringe theater movement in Seattle in the 1990s. She is a 1990 graduate of Evergreen State University, where she studied nonprofit arts administration and theater management.
Halstead Reid said she is thrilled to join the VCA staff and return to her roots in arts management.
Her aim in her new job, she said, is to support the vision and mission of the organization as it continues to settle into its new campus, which opened in 2016.
“The Kay White Hall is still a new thing for VCA,” she said. “The volume of possibility and activities and events is not yet at 100% — that is something that needs to grow with the vision and mission of the organization.”
Her theater background, as well as her work in team-building with others in Vashon’s nonprofit community, will guide her in the challenges ahead, she said.
“Having had the experience of running a fringe theater company, you do what needs to be done, and you bring a level of enthusiasm to get the job done,” she said.
Hoffberg said that Halstead Reid’s surprise hiring, which was not preceded by a publicized job search, made sense for the organization. In getting to know Halstead Reid through her term on the board, he said, he became confident that she had the skills to help VCA grow.
Referring to his own experience as a former businessman, he said it was “not uncommon in the world of commerce” for executives to reach out to colleagues they knew and trusted to fill positions.
“It is a huge distraction to the organization to post a job and do a search,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared to do that when I could do it a different way.”
When asked if he anticipated making other staffing changes at VCA in the near future, he declined to comment.
Halstead Reid’s hiring is the second time in 13 months that a board member has moved from a volunteer position on the board to an executive position on staff. Hoffberg also served on the board prior to his appointment as executive director in March 2018.
Islanders who do not already know Halstead Reid will have a chance to meet her at VCA’s upcoming members’ meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 29, at the arts center.
Arts center to hold member meeting
Vashon Center for the Arts will hold a members’ meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, April 29, in its Kay White Hall.
At the meeting, VCA’s executive director, Kevin Hoffberg, will report on the organization’s accomplishments of the past year, its plans for the future and its current financial challenges.
Non-members, Hoffberg said, may also attend the meeting. He urged islanders with specific questions they wish to have addressed at the meeting to submit them in advance to vashoncenterforthearts.org/question.
However, Hoffberg said he had not yet decided if he will take questions directly from the audience at the upcoming meeting, though he was considering adding a 20-minute block for a back-and-forth with the audience. He said he has spent a lot of time preparing for the meeting and wanted to convey all the information he has scripted.
“The point is for me to be able to lay out what we have accomplished, where we are in terms of money, and why people should support us,” he said.